Scientists at Switzerland's Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and Stanford University tracked mentions of more than 2,000 people who died between 2009 and 2014 to gauge how long recently deceased public figures remain in the collective memory.
The researchers algorithmically analyzed the daily frequency of mentions of each deceased person in mainstream news and on Twitter in the year before and after they passed away.
What they found were four prototypical patterns of postmortem memory: blip, silence, rise, and decline.
EPFL's Robert West said about half of all people studied produced few mentions before dying, then received a small blip after they died before reverting to pre-mortem levels of mentions.
Another 25% got basically no mentions, while a further 12.5% spiked when they died before mentions settle at levels higher than when they lived—usually politicians or athletes who are no longer active.
Artists who created long-lasting cultural legacies tend d to receive the largest average long-term attention boost following their deaths.
From Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (Switzerland)
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